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Artist Talk 1

Anna Mayer and Simona Dossi. Dec 8th 2021

”After several initial conversations about our intersecting interests and shared questions, we determined it would be helpful to speak to people who have experienced firsthand an ember shower or storm. Our focus on embers is two fold. Embers are one of the ways in which fire enters built structures, so understanding how they move is important to designing homes that can better withstand fire (a primary concern of Simona’s current research). Also, embers are a very small instance of fire that can nevertheless have a huge impact on the severity of a wildfire. There are practicalities and poetics to embers, in particular how there are many intersecting factors that determine how they move through space. With our interviews we would like to hear from those who have observed these intersecting factors directly. ‘

I listened to an artist talk from Artist Anna Mayer and chemical engineer Simona Dossi, who worked together collaboratively.

Anna started the talk by introducing her work which she really began in her early 20s, initially she was much more interested in books, literature, book production, which then lead her into print making and then from there onto sculpture. She got a BA degree in literature and gender. In her early work she has an interest in pattern, such as camouflage and the history of craft. She found an interest in artists like Bridgette Riley, who also uses pattern and optical illusion art.

From her website, “Anna Mayer’s art practice is sculptural and social, with an emphasis on hand-built ceramics and another molten material: bronze. Her methodology emerges from site-specific analogue firing projects and critical engagement with pre- and post-petro culture. Mayer revels in the fact that ceramics historically has been used to create highly functional items as well as intensely symbolic objects. Her work is part of this lineage, with equal concern for the future and a dramatically shifting climate—ecological and political.”

Anna and Simona’s interests overlap when considering fire, its behaviours and how it can be controlled. For Anna these are considered when working in ceramics, which have to be heated in a very specific and controlled way to be strong and durable.

Simona, as a scientist, looks at fire safety in the aim to reduce damage to homes from wild fires. Hoe can we help existing structures withstand wild fires? How to Embers behave, which often are seen to be what ignites homes?

Anna put unfired ceramics out in the open in the path of wild fires to allow them to fire the pieces, and they would stay I the landscape until this happened. Each is about torso sides and has some text on it. She was critiquing other land art and wanted to make something of a modest scale. The quotes also relate to her criticism of land art. She said that many of these sculptures, she understands, may never be fired in her lifetime. 10 years into the project the wildfires in California, specifically the Woolsey Fire, fired 6 of her pieces. Eventually she was able to go and pull some out once the fire was contained. 2 are still buried by mud in the land scape, but she managed to pull 4 out.

  Installation view. Background:  Caribbean Petroleum Fire Near San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2009 , 2021; printed fabric with holes created while crushing inherited dinnerware; 193 x 144 inches

My work similarly deals with changes I nature, as her work went on it began to be associated with climate change due to its nature. In some ways this relates to my work where life is regrowing from decayed things, in her case things are being destroyed (decayed?) by wildfires.

While this collaboration is distinctly different to the collaboration I did with one of my peers on the course, as this was between a scientist and an artist and has a different relationship, there are still similarities in the way 2 people come together to work on the piece. Our piece also included some scientific drawing from other artists which could relate to the collaboration with science.

Another artist I met at an event recently who also works in collaboration with scientists is Lucy Stevens, who is based in Leicester and collaborates with many experts in the natural world.

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Artist Talk 2

GardenShip and State: Jeff Thomas, Patrick Mahon, Mark Kasumovic

From this talk I was particularly interested in Mark Kasumovic, all of his photographs shown were taken on conservation grounds. The first photo he showed was taken on one such conservation ground, it shows the inside of a bird watching hut, but from the hut you can see the heavy industry surrounding the hut intended to view nature. Although many birds probably do visit this are he sees it as a symbol of a place to slowly watch the world exhaust itself or a place to discuss the current environmental crisis.

He also talks about how he moved to an area near where there was an apocalyptic scene shot for the opening sequence for blade runner, which was associated with society collapsing, maybe due to industrialisation.

He began being interested in working with scientists to look at how artists and scientists represent the world and hoe sometimes the methodologies can be quite similar but have different output. He began to be interested In the subtle, quiet representation of things collapsing and falling apart. This can be beautiful and something we are drawn to. I myself find myself drawn to these things and is the basis for my work.

He says that to be successful these images showing effects of climate change have to be subtle but they also have to be romantic in order to be interesting. He shows images of land and roads falling back into the sea. Even as a child he says he was thinking about how even if we become extinct as humans the planet will move on, it doesn’t matter, everything will be okay. He spent time walking around looking at he landscape for subtle clues of strange occurrences, such as sand dunes occurring on the conservation grounds which are surrounded by heavy industry.

Part of what began my work currently was thinking about the downfall of people and what would happen if we vanished, and nature began to take back over, and in some work lately I have been using a combination of decaying human made structures and the plants growing from their ruins. This is a similar combining of nature and human life hinting to our downfall that Mark uses in his photographs. His phones also appear very quiet in a similar way to my paintings, which is something I continue to take forward with my work.

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Derby Museum and Art Gallery

On the 27th of February 2022 I went to Derby Museum and Art Gallery, primarily to look at their natural history section, although they also have various art pieces, including a collection of Joseph Wright paintings, and at the time they also had an exhibit of Claude Cahun’s work.

My work this year has been very centred around various parts of our environment and nature, growth, and decay. I went to the museum to collect images and inspiration from their specimens, which include a selection of animal bones, which were the starting point of my work this year.

From this trip I collected images to work from to ad visual variety to my work, as previously I was limited to skulls in my collection and images from the internet, which I didn’t want to use due to the possibility of copyright issues. It also gave me the opportunity to explore the variety of skulls and insects which I could use in my work., as the museum also has a wide variety of insect specimens.

The Notice Nature Feel Joy collection shows almost 2,000 specimens from their natural history collection.

At the time the museum was also hosting a touring exhibition of Claude Cahun’s work, containing 42 contemporary giclee prints made from scans of Cahun’s original photographic self-portraits, as the majority of the negatives have been lost.

“Born Lucy Schwob, she adopted the pseudonym in 1917 to free herself from the narrow confines of gender. At the beginning of her career she was aligned to the Surrealist movement and was friends with André Breton; however she distanced herself both politically and physically after fleeing France on the eve of Nazi occupation.

Cahun settled in Jersey where she embarked upon her defining photographic series, in which the subversion of traditional portraiture and the constructed nature of identity and gender are pressing concerns. In these now famous images, Cahun anticipated the performative work of contemporary artists such as Cindy Sherman.

This Hayward Touring exhibition is in collaboration with Jersey Heritage and was first presented at the Women of the World Festival 2015, Southbank Centre.”

Although the work was interesting to see and explore it was not particularly relevant to my current line of work but was relevant to my own experiences with gender expression.

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Tessa Farmer

“Tessa Farmer was born in 1978 in Birmingham and  lives and works in London. She is the great granddaughter of the influential writer of supernatural horror Arthur Machen. She studied at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, The University of Oxford  where she received a BFA and an MFA. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and is in many collections including those of The Saatchi Gallery, London, The David Roberts Collection, London and The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Tasmania.

In 2007 she was artist in residence at the Natural History Museum in London and was nominated for The Times/ Southbank Show Breakthrough Award. In 2011 she was awarded a Kindle Project ‘Makers Muse’ Award.

Recent exhibitions include a solo exhibition ‘Unwelcome Visitors’ at The Holburne Museum, Bath, ‘The Nature of the Beast’ at New Art Gallery Walsall, ‘Victoriana’ at Guildhall Art Gallery, London and ‘Red Queen’ at MONA, Tasmania.

Tessa is represented by Danielle Arnaud London and Spencer Brownstone Gallery, New York.”

I found Farmers work in a text while researching for my essay on the use of animalsin contempty art. She uses found creatures innher work, insects she has found or sourced from somewhere that lets them live out their natural lives, Farmer dows not belive in killing animals specifically for making art (something which i fully agree with). “I collect them from the streets in summer, from greenhouse, windowsills etc – all dead already. I don’t kill anything, and although I can see the importance of collecting insects for scientific purposes, I don’t think this can be justified for art.”

She puts a lot of care into putting together her fairies and the way she talks about them as if refferring to real animals is interesting to watch.

The time and care she puts into these is something reflected in my work, where i am painting creatures and objects which people dont look at or actively avoid or dislike. i do not feel this way about what i paint and out a lot of care into my work.

the mood given off my farmers work is very different to mine, “The artist herself notes: “the fairies’ macabre appearance echoes their disconcerting behaviour. On peering closely into the ‘Swarm’, sinister scenes of abuse and bewildering chimeras emerge as we become absorbed into this almost apocalyptic vision.”” Her work is quite unsettling, and while mine is not happy by any means, my paintings are quiet and calm.

Part of what influenced my current work and what got me to this point of interest was the idea of the appocalypse, whch led me on to decay and abandonment, what happens to things when we leave them along and how nature takes everything back. Farmer mentions the possibility of her fairies attacking humans in the furure, “I suspect once the fairies start attacking humans, they may be in a for a challenge.”, perhaps in this world its the fairies which will bring outbout the end or reduction in human life.

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“In the long run, nothing escapes the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The pull of entropy is relentless. Everything decays. Disorder always increases.”

“Why Art is Beautiful

Entropy offers a good explanation for why art and beauty are so aesthetically pleasing. Artists create a form of order and symmetry that, odds are, the universe would never generate on its own. It is so rare in the grand scheme of possibilities. The number of beautiful combinations is far less than the number of total combinations. Similarly, seeing a symmetrical face is rare and beautiful when there are so many ways for a face to be asymmetrical.

Beauty is rare and unlikely in a universe of disorder. And this gives us good reason to protect art. We should guard it and treat it as something sacred.”

I really exited to look into this more in relation to my work, it was only bought to my attemtion right t the end of term as i was getting everything ready for formative assessment.

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Louis Le Brocquy

One artist whose work has influenced mine is Louis Le Brocquy, his Portrait Heads similarly seem to float in an expanse of nothing, with the colours not confined to the edges of the faces he pained. The colours he used are also similar to how I work, in that they are not true to life as we see them, with areas of bright colour. in these works he also used areas of extreme darkness, highly contrasting with the white background, whic is also something present inmy work this year.

“though most of his early studies had generic titles such as ‘Head’ or ‘Ancestral Head’, there were also a few based on the heads of friends or famous writers such as Keats or James Joyce. However it was only in 1975 that he began to make extensive, systematic series of the same person, starting with one of W. B. Yeats, and following with series of Joyce, Federico Garcia Lorca, Samuel Beckett and Francis Bacon, in that order. He deliberately chose individuals of outstanding talent who were also vulnerable and poignant as human beings because of their suffering in life and the originality and breadth of their vision. In each case he steeped himself as deeply as possible in their work before beginning to paint. Though he knew Yeats, Beckett and Bacon, he had never met Joyce or, of course, Lorca. His paintings and drawings were made with reference to numerous photographs of them and in Joyce’s case to a bronze cast of his death mask which he owns and has hanging on the wall. These images often gave differing impressions and he made no attempt to resolve them into a final, definitive image. Many of the paintings were made without reference to a photograph while painting, but if he used photographs, he tended to have two or more beside him at the same time.”

i also use a variety of source material to create one paintiting, adding parts together whch are not always from the same image.

Unlike my work le brocquy used oil paints for these paintings, which have very different properties to my primary medium of watercolour. he also in these pieces is primarily focused on portraits, which is something ive never included in my work.

dispite these differences there are many visual similarities between our works.

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Beautiful Death Art Exhibitions

in october 2021 i went to the beautiful death art exhibition at leicester guildhall, which i found out about through another student in my year, and aa few of us went as a group.

we were not entirely sure what to expect, the event was more like a market rather than an exhibition, with stalls of traders selling various artworks, taxedermy, specimins etc.

dispite the work there being primarily comercial, the content and themes were very relavent to my work and gave me a lot to think about in terms of where to take my practice, such as begining to include insects and other specimins into my workss along side the bones i was already using.

i also likes that this event was all cruelty free, meaning all specemins die naturally or accidentally

after going to this event it made me begin thinking about doing these kind of events myself, i would like to apply to have a table here next year to sell prints and paintngs, although i am somewhat hesitant as this would mean having to get public liability insurance, invest in buying prints, business cards, display items to show work as well as potentially registering as a sole trader and, if it goes well, i might have to keep track of income and expenses to do tax returns.

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Collaborative Art Work

In term one i did some collaborative work with a nother student with simmilar interests, Lauren Ryan. we both have been using bones in our work, and i had taught her how to do the image transfer techniwue which i had been isung in my work. Ryan’s work at the time has used other artists work as source material, combining it with her own, so it made sense for us to work together to add my work into the mix.

we used a combination of photocopies of my work, hers and famous works which she has been previously using in her work.

… (The Collaboration Paintings are) a physical conversation happening in paint instead of words. The sense of humor, the snide remarks, the profound realizations, the simple chit-chat all happened with paint and brushes…There was a sense that one was watching something being unveiled and discovered for the first time.

— Keith Haring

an examply of a colaborative art piece is JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT AND ANDY WARHOL, Olympic Rings from 1985.

“Warhol’s contribution to the collaborations can be seen in his distinctive technique of hand-painting ready-made iconography, an early practice that he revived with Basquiat. In the case of Olympic Rings, he made several variations of the Olympic five-ring symbol, rendered in the original primary colors. Basquiat responded to the abstract, stylized logos with his oppositional graffiti style. Between clusters of Warhol’s Olympic rings, he imposed a bold, dark, mask-like head, like a medallion in a link chain, undoubtedly an allusion to African-American star athletes of past Olympic Games, such as Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos.”

in this case there is also similarities between this pice and the one we did as Worhol uses ready-made iconography, similarly to how Ryan used well known works by other artists in her parts of out work and made it her owm.

in our piece we both sat together and arranges the various pieces together, and both worked to transfer the images. as there was so many this was a lengthy process but i think it was ultimately worth the time it took.

what i find intersting about colaborative works like this is that they could mean very different things to both artists who made it, the same way that we all look at work and interpret it in a way that may never be identical to someone else. even when we explain what we see and talk them through we will never know if we understand it in exactly the same way. such as how you may see the colour red differently to someone else your whole life and never know thatits not the same way that another preson sees it.

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Transfering Images

Image Transfer

As part of my current work i have been using photocopies of my drawings and photos and transferring them onto paper blocks to make them easier to paint on, since I am using a lot of water which will warp the paper.

This technique is something I was taught in high school.

To do this I print out images or photocopy my work using a laser printer, and then using masking tape to hold it in place (image side down) on the paper block. To transfer the image, I use cellulose thinners. This is painted in small areas on the back of the image, and then using the back of the paint brush I scratch as the area to transfer it onto the image.

Cellulose thinners can cause headaches if you spend too long inhaling the fumes, so this should be done somewhere well ventilated, I also place the lid back on top when I’m not dipping my paintbrush.

All images will be backwards when transferred so if the orientation is important it may need to be flipped before printing.

This technique can be used to collage images together, by transferring them together or even on top of each other.

Although detail is lost when doing this, especially if its not a particularly clear or highly contrasting image, it creates a somewhat aged looking effect, which I like. It can also be worked back into, with paint pen, pencil etc to bring back some definition.

An artist who had used image transfers in their work is Rauschenberg.

Initially I was doing this to preserve biro drawing which took hours to make, as I didn’t want to destroy them by adding paint and potentially wating hours of work if they went wrong, however I found that I really like the effect given by transferring the images. It makes the drawing look soft and somewhat ages and creates a good base for adding back detail and colour with paint

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Barrie Cooke

Megaceros Hibernicus1983

“Cooke’s art often deals with issues of nature and culture, particularly with the formation and transformation of the environment over time. The skeleton of Megaceros Hibernicus, the largest deer of the species which flourished at the end of the last ice age, was recovered from the bog-lands of Ireland. For Cooke the elk represented a powerful symbol of pre-civilised consciousness. In Cooke’s painting the elk emerges from the gloomy bog-land with its enormous antlers treated like massive antennae transmitting, as it were, a message from the past. Yielded up by the bog, the elk demonstrates the process of perpetual interchange that occurs in the cycles of nature.”

This work by Cooke, while it deals with similar themes of nature and changes in enviroment, as well as contains similar animal and decay imagey, is much darker than my own current work. This work comes across quite grusome, the backgroud is very dark, there appears to be blood on the animal and its standing up like it has somehow come back to life and continued to move.

on the other hand, my work is much lighter, with smaller areas of darkness for contrast. It feelsquiet but not sad, the death balances or even overshaddowed by the colours used and plant growth.

we both deal in animals and decay, these elk are extinct, the animals in my work are usually dead. combining the live plants and snimal bones in my work also hints towards the exchange of life in nature and the cyles of life and decat which occurs.